Sunday January 27 2019
Atalanta and Roma invest in youth

Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini and Roma sporting director Monchi are both strong advocates of developing emerging talent, notes Nick Valerio.

As a resurgent Roma side visit Bergamo today, Atalanta know a win would see them leapfrog the Lupi in the table and move within a point of Milan, who currently hold the much-coveted final Champions League berth.

La Dea currently sit in seventh, and if they were to achieve this remarkable feat, it would not carry the same shock value as two years ago when they beat the likes of Lazio and both Milan giants, as they are no longer a surprise package and unquestionably now the real deal.

The Bergamo based outfit came closest to ending Juventus’ unbeaten run this campaign and were it not for some Cristiano Ronaldo heroics, would have inflicted a first league defeat at the raucous Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia.

Central to the continual evolution and improvement of the hosts is boss Gian Piero Gasperini. The former Genoa and Nerazzurri tactician couldn’t have been far behind Roberto Mancini in the reckoning for the Italy job and this is testament to the veteran’s work with La Dea.

Of course, having achieved a memorable fourth place finish in the 2016-17 term, the spotlight inevitably began to glare on the talented young side Gasperini had put together and Andrea Conti, Franck Kessie and Mattia Caldara soon departed for mouthwatering fees. Leonardo Spinazzola and Bryan Cristante also left for Juventus and Roma respectively and the quintet will be indebted to their former Coach who persevered with them, even during their inconsistent patches of form.

Despite the yearly player purge, Gasperini has gone about his business in much the same manner and the latest gem to earn attention is Gianluca Mancini. The defender has displaced 32-year-old Andrea Masiello, interestingly, the oldest player in the Atalanta squad, and hasn’t put a foot wrong all year. Mancini, who has benefited from Gasperini’s trust and caught the eye of Sunday’s opponents, also has five goals from 15 appearances, enhancing his reputation at both ends of the pitch.

Mancini, along with Hans Hateboer, Mario Pasalic, Timothy Castagne and Berat Djimsiti all command starting roles on a regular basis at ages 25 or under and will likely be the latest names to exit the Atalanta conveyor belt this summer, as Gasperini prepares for another cycle.

Visitors Roma are in a similar position. While Mohamed Salah and Alisson Becker commanded big fees and were established performers, the arrival of transfer guru Monchi in 2017 saw the Lupi move in a fresh direction. The Spaniard, revered for his work with Sevilla, focused on bringing in stars of the future with Justin Kluivert, Ante Coric, Cengiz Under and Patrik Schick arriving at the Stadio Olimpico.

Coupled with local lads Lorenzo and Luca Pellegrini, Roma have a core group of fledgling first-teamers who have played an influential role in dragging the capital club up the table and it bodes well for the future of the side in the foreseeable, but for the players in the long-term.

Realistically, if the Lupi starlets progress as intended, Monchi will make a tidy profit, with Lorenzo attracting interest from PSG, while Kluivert was widely considered a coup with most of Europe’s biggest clubs keen on the flying Dutchman. Meanwhile, Under’s fine performances could see Roma receive almost four times the amount they paid İstanbul Basaksehir, with Arsenal and Tottenham rumoured to be preparing €50m bids.

Monchi’s crown jewel, however, is 19-year-old Nicolò Zaniolo. The elegant Fiorentina youth graduate was cast aside by his former club Inter, alongside Davide Santon, in the move that saw Radja Nainggolan go the other way for cash plus the two Italians.

Zaniolo has starred in recent weeks, netting wonder goals against Sassuolo and Torino and he is the Azzurri’s best prospect by some distance. There is a real excitement, and understandably so as Zaniolo has a bit of everything.

The playmaker has the talent, temperament and tenacity to reach the very top and Italy have long lacked a player of his class and ability. The hope for Mancini – and Monchi – will be that he remains in Rome where he will see regular playing time. Ultimately, much like with Atalanta stars, Roma know Zaniolo will earn a significant sum and could rank as one of Monchi’s most inspired captures.

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Have your say...
Show some respect. Viktor has been on here writing his rubbish for years. He is ridiculed week after week yet he keeps fighting, like a one man crusade of 'knowledge'. Vikbore you are disrespecting a man who has met many past milan greats (basically played old fifa games), who once worked along side Berlusconi (on championship manager) with Milan tattoos or as he puts it 'ink', all over him that make him an expert of experts! Yes vikbore we have all been bored to death by Viktor!
on the 30th January, 2019 at 8:46am
Stop banging on about Milan, wake up man. I love Milan but there comes a time to admit that they are simply not going to ever be what they once were. Stop making yourself look so stupid with ridiculous comments like "this should be about Milan"... if Milan had any value we'd attract great players, we don't. If Milan had big money this team would be over run with foreign players just like Juve now is. They have youth because no wanta to play for them. Wake up.
on the 30th January, 2019 at 8:36am
@John Fra
Wow... you resolved of the Azzurri' problems in 1 go. Great effort, sack mancini and bring you in. He is Italy' saviour. Almost every player on your list is playing for teams that have no European challenge, when you are sold, which they will be for the cheaper and better alternative south American or african they vanish and are no longer used. The only way Italian youngster will be great again is when clubs really focus/respect them and not just trafficking them around the world.
on the 30th January, 2019 at 8:31am
@dan Point taken. But 6 or 7 players in afew years is a terrible statistic and is the exact reason Serie A is a mess and the national team is so so so horrific. Tonali will end up at Juve and his career will be over. Mancini, well probably France. Very sad times. Serie A helps to grow young players of the world while our team dies before our eyes and i see this article 'roma and atalanta investing in youth' it's like the writer is taking the p out us or something!
on the 30th January, 2019 at 8:24am

Again "you self-centred narcissist"

You cannot be a narcissist unless you are self-entered.I if you want to try to school me in psychology, do some research. At no point have I made any statement that could even lean towards self-entered, so just drop it.

"a team with no prospects young or old." So Donnarumma, Calabria, Cutrone, Conti, Caladra isn't considered as promising prspects? Thats just ridiculous.
on the 28th January, 2019 at 7:30pm
Talk about two exciting, entertaining yet flawed sides instead of the only subject you want to talk about, a team with no prospects young or old.
If you stop starring at your own navel you might broaden your horizons and be able to comment constructively on other teams other than the one you are a fan of, you self-centred narcissist.
on the 28th January, 2019 at 4:19pm
@Old Devils

"Vikbore, you are a boring narcissist"

Do you even know what a narcissist is? Its Cleary not what you described.

I simply suggest that if there is one team currently who have great youth prospects its Ac Milan. Prove me wrong.

As far it comes to ref calls, well, the entire league is upset about the calls that goes in Juves favour, except Juve fans themselves.
on the 28th January, 2019 at 1:53pm
Vikbore, you are a boring narcissist. Was it you a few years ago complaining that there were too many articles about juve? Let other teams get talked without butting in about Milan. Why would anyone listen to you complain about refs when your bias can't even let Atalanta and Roma have their own airspace. Petty and childish
on the 28th January, 2019 at 5:18am
Lots of exciting young Italians! The future is bright for the Azzurri in my opinion. Zaniolo, Chiesa, Barella, Rugani, Caldara, Romagnoli... The list goes on. Euro 2020 semifinalists and World Cup winners in 2022 or 2026.
on the 28th January, 2019 at 12:45am
This article should be about AC Milan ... we are the ones who fields mainly Italians, young ones for that matter as well.
on the 27th January, 2019 at 7:22pm
Roma needs to invest into psychiatric clinic.
on the 27th January, 2019 at 7:01pm
Anyone watch this game? It was fantastic! Looking forward to watching Sampdoria and Atalanta in Europe (EL or CL) next season. They have both been very entertaining and I hope they can keep their cores together for one more season.
on the 27th January, 2019 at 5:54pm
@Jeremy, true, but in Atalanta's defense, as soon as a young Italian starts to do well with them they are snapped up by the bigger clubs. They must have sold at least 6 Italian youngsters over the last few years. Mancini will be the next. As for Roma, they are the only big Italian side that appears to have any faith in Italian players and youngsters. They are assembling a very promising core of Italians and are looking to add to that with the likes of Mancini and Tonali.
on the 27th January, 2019 at 12:14pm
Most of youngsters are not even italian.
on the 27th January, 2019 at 9:59am

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